The men’s singles at the 2021 US Open is all about whether or not Novak Djokovic can be stopped from achieving the calendar year Grand Slam. There are a number of challengers in the other half of the draw, with the two Russians, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, particularly capable of going deep in the tournament at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic might be the only Grand Slam champion left in the men’s singles after the early elimination of Marin Cilic and Andy Murray, but Medvedev in particular has the weapons and defensive game to topple the world number one. The number two seed must, however, get through the first week before he can plot a route to the final.
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka has made a solid start to the defence of her 2020 US Open women’s singles title with the number three seed yet to drop a set. The third-round clash between Simona Halep and Elena Rybakina also promises to be one of the most compelling matches of the tournament so far.
Here’s what to expect from a selection of Friday’s US Open men’s and women’s singles third round matches.
Pablo Andujar v Daniil Medvedev (2)
Flushing Meadows tends to bring the best out of Medvedev, who made his first Grand Slam final at the 2019 US Open. The Russian is in exceptional form right now having won the Canada Masters in Toronto and made the semi finals of the Cincinnati Masters before travelling to New York for the final major of the year.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) August 31, 2021
Medvedev has won both matches he has played (against Richard Gasquet and Dominik Koepfer) in straight sets and looks certain to make the latter rounds of the tournament. The 25-year-old’s defensive game keeps him competitive against anyone from the baseline, while the Russian’s natural aggression means he can defence into attack at any moment.
Pablo Andujar will be the underdog in this match-up, but the Spaniard has claimed wins over Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem in 2021. The 35-year-old had to fight back from two sets down to see off Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round before sweeping aside Philipp Kohlschreiber to set up a meeting with Medvedev. He won’t fold easily.
This will be the first meeting between the two men, but Medvedev’s counter-punching style will likely prove too much for Andujar. What’s more, the Russian is serving exceptionally well (23 aces in just two matches). Andujar might look to mix up his game, with his backhand cross-court particularly dangerous, but Medvedev will be too strong for him.
0.25u – Back Daniil Medvedev First Set 6-4 @ +500
Leylah Fernandez v Naomi Osaka (3)
Defending women’s singles champion Osaka has enjoyed a smooth start to her 2021 US Open campaign, beating Marie Bouzkova in straight sets in the first round before benefiting from the retirement of Olga Danilovic in the second round. On paper, this is another match-up that the number three seed should be the favourite for.
However, Osaka’s game was somewhat erratic in the run-up to the final Grand Slam of the year, as it was at the Tokyo Olympics where she suffered a disappointing early exit. The 23-year-old is seemingly aware of this and is looking to rediscover her focus after a challenging summer at Roland Garros and through the grass-court season, which Osaka skipped.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) August 31, 2021
Osaka saved all eight break points she faced against Bouzkova and looked solid enough off both sides. The two-times US Open winner looks to have good control of her groundstrokes at the moment and is controlling her natural power in a way that allows her to dictate points from the baseline.
Leylah Fernandez has enjoyed an excellent tournament so far, winning in straight sets against Ana Konjuh and Kaia Kanepi. The Canadian won her first WTA title at the Monterrey Open in March and could be a dangerous opponent for Osaka. The defending champion will need to keep her first serve percentage high.
0.5u – Back Naomi Osaka 2-1 @ +360
Simona Halep (19) v Elena Rybakina (12)
It wasn’t certain if Halep would even compete in this year’s US Open after a series of injuries which saw the former world number one miss the grass-court season. Halep suffered early exits in Montreal and Cincinnati, but looks to have found her groove again with two comfortable victories at Flushing Meadows to make the third round.
Halep’s chances of a deep run depend on her fitness. The Romanian looked to have found her way again after injury not long after the Australian Open, but suffered a serious set-back at the Rome Masters. Halep can’t afford another set-back like that, otherwise the rest of her season would be placed in serious doubt.
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) September 1, 2021
Rybakina started her season slowly, but has built on that to the point that her challenge must be taken seriously at the final Grand Slam of the year having finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics The 22-year-old achieved a career-best run at both Roland Garros (quarter-finals) and Wimbledon (third round) and has already made it further than ever before at the US Open. This is new territory for the Kazakh youngster.
This will be the third time that the two women have met each other, with the overall record standing at 1-1. However, Halep won the last meeting in three sets in the final of the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships. Both players are strong baseliners, which means this match should be an entertaining one featuring a number of lengthy rallies. Halep’s footwork could give her the edge, though.
1u – Back Simona Halep Winner @ +100